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There is little doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping the future of the retail market. Whether it’s AI chatbots becoming in-store and online customer sales assistants, or AI powering the future of retail personalization (like we’re doing here at Grey Jean), it’s clear that AI is here to stay.

However, as with any new technology, the embrace of AI comes with concerns, especially when it comes to consumer data privacy. Losing customer data – whether accidentally or through a cyber security incident – can have significant consequences for any retailer. In one recent poll, 85% of consumers indicated they would be less likely to do business with a company that failed to protect their data.

The concerns of data privacy are real – but they should not inhibit retailers from embarking on data-driven marketing programs that can increase customer loyalty and revenues. The need for control can lead retailers to try and manage everything internally to ensure data integrity. The reality is that few retailers are technically advanced enough to implement and maintain data-intensive customer facing programs.

And let’s be honest, from a marketing perspective, the primary concerns are: is it secure? Will it help me better understand what drives the purchase behavior of my customers?

We encounter questions on data privacy a lot in regards to our AI-powered recommendation engine, Genie. When it comes to customer data, we like to think of ourselves as a baker – we don’t want to own the ingredients you’re giving us, we just want to use them to make the most delicious cake that we can.

The ingredients are yours. Retailers are sitting on massive data sets that hold unique insights into what drives purchase behavior, the key is teasing those insights out. Genie can use demographic, location, product, loyalty and transactional information to immediately make accurate recommendations on what products a customer may purchase next. These data sets are the ingredients for an effective marketing program.

To maintain strict data privacy, Genie treats all of these data points purely as numbers, eliminating the chance of identifying information being released. Much like the ingredients in a cake – flour, eggs, sugar, milk and more – they cease to be the individual components as soon as they’re added together to make the cake. The process can’t be reversed.

This is exactly what Genie is doing. By taking sensitive data and transforming it into a series of numbers and algorithms, Genie is turning sensitive data into ingredient components that create the end product – predictions on consumer purchase behavior that retail marketers can use to connect with a customer on a true one-to-one basis.

When it comes to AI driven marketing programs and consumer privacy – yes, you can have your cake and eat it too.


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